Beauty Revealed

Spiritual Disciplines

There she was. My daughter. My husband and I chose to wait until birth to find out the genders of our babies. But when Shiloh was placed in my arms, there was no surprise. We knew she was a girl. And from that moment, God began rewiring my views of femininity.

I held my daughter through the early hours of Valentine’s Day and I was struck by her beauty. Little did I know the wave of emotion wasn’t just the hormones coursing through my body. She simply was lovely.

Beauty in our culture is either taboo or vain and all consuming. And yet, as a woman who seeks to please God above all else, I still find myself desiring to be seen as beautiful. There’s this innate part of me that deeply wants to be alluring. What is that?

For over a decade I’ve been drawn to the feminine heart of God. The softer, more vulnerable, relational, tender parts of God. His beauty. His allure. He shows this in his creation. The way the sunrises over the mountains. The intricate design of a snowflake. The colors and patterns of the feathers of our chickens. The sunflowers stretching tall against the August sky. Creation draws you into worship. You can’t separate God and beauty. And I believe the same of women and beauty.

Somehow we’ve either dumbed this down and tried to quiet the need or made it the most important thing about a woman. Both miss the heart of God and the heart of me.

Beauty is physical. We can rob our daughters of the pleasure of telling them they are delightful and beautiful in fear that they will become vain. We can leave them searching, asking everyone else “am I beautiful” in ways that may be detrimental to their souls. We can encourage them to shut down this part of themselves completely, “don’t be beautiful, be useful”.

Or maybe we can just delight in them! When our daughters perform for us, dance for us, dress up for us perhaps we just can sit back and take them in. Delight in their beauty and the value that they, just being exactly who God made them to be, bring to our lives. Our little ladies are stunning. But so are we.

We’ve been told by our culture that we need to stay young forever to keep this aspect of ourselves. So we strive. We strive to be skinny. We strive for clear skin and better hair. We do our best to avoid wrinkles. Some of us have given up the idea that we can be beautiful at all anymore. Instead we may strive for our intelligence or service to be the most “beautiful” thing about us.

Personally, after the birth of my daughter, I began to stop striving physically toward the beauty the world insists on. I turned inward to soften into the beauty that I always encompassed. This took resting. Surrendering the beauty standards of the world that didn’t feel quite like me. I tuned into what made me feel beautiful as a little girl. Matching, feminine pajama sets and nightgowns? Check. Being outside and barefoot soaking in the sunshine? Check. Flushed from a hard workout or challenging my body? Check. Recognizing that feeling beautiful didn’t come from the highlights in my hair, the fake lashes on my eyes, or the pedicure on my feet made it possible for me to stop outsourcing my beauty. Just as my daughter was born into the world lovely, so was I. And when I focus my attention on being that girl, my beauty radiates through the freedom of softening into who I am rather than the harshness of striving to be her. 

Beauty is creative. Our innate beauty is also reflected in our desire to make things beautiful. You know when you walk into a friend’s home and you see her touch all over it? I think of my freshman college dorm. There were six girls living there. Our first instinct? It was to take the ugly red couch and put a slipcover over the material. To put up curtains and throw pillows. To add color and life. Unlike the boys’ dorm next store where their main concern was “how do we take the furniture we’ve been given and make it into movie theater seating?”, forsaking all style and beauty for functionality.

Living from my beauty means seeing my home through all of the five senses. How can it smell inviting here? How can this lighting be cozy and peaceful? When we camp Joey always mocks me as I find myself “nesting” at our campsite. How can I organize our stuff so it doesn’t distract from the beauty around us? I get to work tidying and organizing as he collects firewood. Beauty is the art and music we create from a contented, worshipful heart. Beauty flows out of us as praise of our heavenly Father that we joyfully reflect. A world without this beauty is only masculine. Which, as you’ll remember, was the only part of creation that was not good by God’s standards. Masculine without feminine is incomplete. Because the essence of God encompasses both. We must, as faithful women, stop trying to ignore the feminine heart inside of us. We must stop striving to do masculinity better than the men around us. A world with all masculine is in God’s very own words “not good”!  

Beauty is vulnerable. You might sense that this urging of you to showcase your beauty is dangerous. It is. Baring your feminine heart and desire to be beautiful is exposing yourself to hurt. But it’s also exposing you to hope. To believe what God says about you more than what a human may think or say about you. Is God right about you? Or is the kid in middle school who mocked you for your acne? Is God right about you? Or that girl in high school that never thought you were pretty enough to be a part of what she was doing? Is God right about you? Or that man who feels the need to point out how “huge” you are pregnant? Is God right about you? Or your parents who think your desire to be seen was a nuisance. I think you deeply know the answer.

This month I’ve collected “beauty rhythms” from dear friends who are innately beautiful and not afraid to bare that beauty. I see the beauty they have added to their family, their communities and my life and I can’t help but share it with you. I hope you are as delighted by their words as I have been!